It appears as though Tom Telesco has traded a player for a player. That only took eight years.
As I’ve already managed to write many times on Bolts from the Blue this year, the LA Chargers GM has avoided trades at extreme levels since taking the position in 2013.
That year, he traded up from 45 to 38 for Manti Te’o, giving up a fourth. The next year, he traded up from 57 to 50 for Jeremiah Attaochu, giving up a fourth. The next year he lost his mind, making two deals, giving up fourth and fifth round picks so he could move up two spots for Melvin Gordon, then later dealing Jeremiah Sirles to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth.
Knowing he had to pace himself now, Telesco made zero trades in 2016, then came back and made two again in 2017: A conditional seventh for Cardale Jones and then later in the year Dontrelle Inman to the Chicago Bears for a conditional pick as well. Neither picked conveyed. I guess taking another two years off afforded Telesco an opportunity to go nuts again.
It was reported on Wednesday that the Chargers plan to trade Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. The details of Okung, Turner, and why the two teams made the deal have already begun to be covered here and other places and you can read those articles for different information. The story I want to dig into is the trade itself and a very important question:
Is Tom Telesco evolving?
If ever there was a time for Telesco to change, why not now? The San Diego Chargers went 9-7, 8-8, and 7-9 in the three years prior to his appointment as GM. They went 9-7 in each of his first two, then 9-23 over the following two. Their 4-12 record in 2015 was San Diego's worst since going 4-12 in 2003, the year before they added Philip Rivers. Firing Mike McCoy after that season and before their move to Los Angeles reinvigorated the franchise enough to go 9-7 in 2017, then 12-4 in 2018, but 5-11 times are here again.
After seven seasons, two playoff trips, a 2-2 record in the postseason, and their three worst records posted of the last 16 years, repeating the same note probably didn’t feel like a desirable song for Telesco. And also maybe he also doesn’t want to be fired in ten months.
The Chargers set a tone for change with the announcement that they wish Rivers the best in free agency but I think making his first significant trade after eight years in the position puts out an even more important signal to the other 31 teams: “I’M LISTENING!”
What else will Telesco be willing to listen to?
My greatest plea to the GM would to say that if there was ever a time to trade down in the draft, why not now? Telesco has only made the three draft pick deals over seven drafts and they’ve only ever been to trade up. He has never traded down. Looking at a stacked draft class and the Chargers only holding their original seven picks, I think now is a perfect time to do so, and I’ve already written several reasons why.
Now I actually think maybe it could happen.
Strangely, there’s not much habit to Telesco’s first round picks. In seven years, he’s selected seven different positions: Tackle, Cornerback, Running Back, Defensive End, Wide Receiver, Safety, and Defensive Tackle. Fittingly, many are now tying Telesco and Anthony Lynn to the elusive position that he’s only ever spent two draft picks on, one in round five and one in round seven: Quarterback.
Drafting a QB with his first pick would not be a surprise to anyone given the circumstances, but trading for a veteran, trading up for one, or trading down and waiting on one, then still taking a QB in the first or second round, would all be out of norm moves. And the Chargers probably need out of norm moves. Telesco could trade a player for pick, such as Melvin Ingram. He could target a third receiving option who isn’t Travis Benjamin. Anything seems to be possible now.
No Rivers. No Okung. I think it’s safe to say we don’t know what news is going to be next. That seems good.